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THE GIFT OF
RUSSELL GREEN FESSENDEN
CLASS OF 189D
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY
THE (inADlIATt; PHILOSOPHIC \r. SOCIlsT
Milh an inlriihiicllnii
CHAULES ('Ainini.T. I'VrHF'IT. |l,|l. t
iiir v•p.l»^NT^ *o( irrv
/ I •
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY
THE GRADUATE PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
MARCH 25, 1896
Wftlf att intrnliitrtUm
CHARLES CARROLL EVERETT, D.D., LL.D.
PUBLISHED BY THE VEDANTA SOCIETY
Tr^i, 2)2.VA 2aj2-
t'K^ u ^ ^1- ' ~o< o K^ - • ^' - * ^<- -^-^
By John Wilson and Son.
By Robert Drummond.
The Swami Vivekananda was sent by his friends and
co-religionists to present their belief at the Congress of
Religions that was held in connection with the World's
Fair in Chicago. This he did in a way to win general
interest and admiration. Since then he has lectured on
the same theme in different parts of our country. He
has been in fact a missionary from India to America.
Everywhere he has made warm personal friends; and
his expositions of Hindu philosophy have been listened
to with delight. It is very pleasant to observe the
eager interest with which his own people in India fol-
low his course, and the joy that they take in his succes.
I have seen a pamphlet filled with speeches made at a
large and influential meeting in Calcutta, which was
called together to express enthusiastic approval of the
manner in which he has fulfilled his mission; and satis-
faction at this invas^ion of the West by oriental thought.
This satisfaction is well grounded. We may not be so
near to actual conversion as some of these speakers
seem to believe; but Vivekananda has created a high
degree of interest in himself and his work. There are
indeed few departments of study more attractive than
the Hindu thought. It is a rare pleasure to see a form
of belief that to most seems so far away and unreal as
the Vedanta system, represented by an actually living
and extremely intelligent believer. This system is not
to be regarded merely as a curiosity, as a speculative
vagary. Hegel said that Spinozism is the necessary
beginning of all philosophizing. This can be said even
more emphatically of the Vedanta system. We occi-
dentals busy ourselves with the manifold. We can,
however, have no understanding of the manifold, if we
have no sense of the One in which the manifold exists.
The reality of the One is the truth which the East
may well teach us; and we owe a debt of gratitude
to Vivekananda that he has taught this lesson so
C. C. EVERETT.
This lecture and the discussion which followed were steno-
graphically reported. They could receive from the Swami
only a cursory revision, owing to his departure for Eng-
land, but it is hoped no errors have crept in. Professor
IvANMAN and Professor Wright of Harvard have kindly
assisted in the final revision. In the reporting of the dis-
cussion, some of the questions were unavoidably lost.
The first four notes were added by the Swami. In the
original lecture, the quotations from Hindu writings were
first given in the Sanskrit, and then translated; these off-
hand translations stand as given.
Following the lecture and discussion, are the answers
of the Swami to questions at two afternoon talks with
some Harvard students, on March 22 and 24. These
answers were stenographically reported, but the questions
were not. There have also been added a few selections
from unpublished lectures. Some of the answers and
selections cover the same general ground, but they have
all been retained on account of the variety in treatment.
While no adequate exposition of the Vedanta philosophy
can be given in a single address, it is hoped that this,
with the accompanying answers and selections, will be of
value to those interested in the thought and life of the
J. P. F.
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY.
The Vedanta philosophy, as it is generally called at the
present day, really comprises all the various sects that now
exist in India. Thus there have been various interpre-
tations, and to my mind they have been progressive,
beginning with the dualistic or Dwaita and ending with the
non-dualistic or Adwaita. The word Vedanta literally
means the end If the Vedas, — the Vedas being the scrip-
tures of the Hindus.* Sometimes in the West by the Vedas
are meant only the hymns and rituals of the Vedas. But
at the present time these parts have almost gone out of .
use, and usually by the word Vedas in India the Vedanta || ^^^
i s meant . All our commentators, when they"^ant~to
quote a passage from the scriptures, as a rule quote from
the Vedanta, which has another technical name with the
commentators — the Crutis.f Now all the books known by
the name of the Vedanta were not entirely written after
the ritualistic portions of the Vedas. For Instance, one
of them — the Iga Upanishad — forms the fortieth chap-
ter of the Yajur Veda, that being the oldest part of the
* The Vedas are divided mainily into two portions: the Karmakanda
and the Jnanakanda» — ^the work-portion and the knowledge-portion. To
the Karmakanda belong the famous h^rmns and the rituals or Brah-
manas. Those books which treat of spiritual matters apart from cere-
monials are called Upanishads. The Upanishads belong to the Jnana-
kanda, or knowledge-portion. It is not that all the Upanishads came
to be composed as a separate portion of the Vedas. Some are inter-
spersed among the rituals, and at least one is in the Sanhita or hymn-
portion. Sometimes the term Upanishad is applied to books which are
not included in the Vedas, — e. g. the Gita; but as a rule it is applied
to the philosophical treatises scattered through the Vedas. These |
treatises have been collected, and are called the Vedanta. »
t The term fri***, — meaning "that which is heard," — though including
the whole of the Vedic literature, is chiefly applied by the commenta-
tors to the Upanishads.
8 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
Vedas. There are other Upanishads* which form portions
of the Brahmanas or ritualistic writings; and the rest of the
Upanishads are independent, not comprised in any of the
Brahmanas or other parts of the Vedas; but there is no
reason to suppose that they were entirely independent of
other parts, for, as we well know, many of these have been
lost entirely, and many of the Brahmanas have become
extinct. So it is quite possible that the independent Upan-
ishads belonged to some Brahmanas which in course of
time fell into disuse, while the Upanishads remained.
(These Upanishads are also called Forest Books or Aran-
The Vedanta, then, practically forms the scriptures of
the Hindus, and all systems of philosophy that are ortho-
dox have to take it as their foundation. Even the Budd-
hists and Jains, when it suits their purpose, will quote a
passage from the Vedanta as authority. All schools of
philosophy in India, although they claim to have been
based upon the Vedas, took different names for their sys-
tems. The last one, the system of Vyasa, took its stand
upon the doctrines of the Vedas more than the previous
systems did, and made an attempt to harmonize the pre-
ceding philosophies, such as the Sankhya and the Nyaya,
with the doctrines of the Vedanta. So it is; especially
called the Vedanta Philosophy; and the Sutras or Aphor-
isms of Vyasa are, in modern India, the basis of the
Vedanta Philosophy. Again, these Sutras of Vyasa have
been variously explained by different commentators. I
* The Upanishads are said to be one hundred and eight in number.
Their dates cannot be fixed with certainty, — only it is certain that they
are older than the Buddhistic movement. Though some of the minor
Upanishads contain allusions indicating a later date, yet that does not
prove the later date of the treatise, as, in very many cases in Sanskrit
literature, the substance of a book, though of very ancient date, receives
a coating, as it were, of later events in the hands of the sectarians to
exalt their particular sect.
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 9
general there are three sorts of commentators* in India
now; and from their interpretations have arisen three sys-
tems of philosophy and sects. One is the dualistic or
Dwaita; a second is the qualified non-dualistic or Vigish-
tadwaita; and a third is the non-duailistic or Adwaita. Of
these the dualistic and the qualified non-dualistic include
the largest number of the Indian people. The non-
dualists are comparatively few in number. Now I will
try to lay before you the ideas that are contained in all
these three sects; but before going on, I will make one
remark, — that these different Vedanta systems have one
common psychology, and that is the psychology of the
Sankhya system. This Sankhya psychology is very much
like the psychologies of the Nyaya and Vaigeshika sys-
tems, differing only in minor particulars.
All the Vedantists agree on three points. They believe V fxii
in God, in the Vedas as revealed, and in cycles. We
have already considered the Vedas. The belief about }/ ^
cycles is as follows: All matter throughout the universe
is the outcome of one primal matter called Akaga; and %
all force, whether gravitation, attraction or repulsion, or "*|«'^ #
life, is the outcome of one primal force called Prana.
* The commentaries are of various sorts, — such as the Bhashya, Tika,
Tippaiii, Churni, etc. — of which all except the Bhashya are explana-
tions of the text or difficult words in the text. The Bhashya is not
properly a commentary, but the elucidation of a system of philosophy
out of texts, the object being not to explain the words, but to bring
out a philosophy. So the writer of a Bhashya expands his own sys-
tem, taking texts as authorities for his system.
There have been various commentaries on the Vedanta. Its doctrines
found their final expression in the philosophical Aphorisms of Vyasa.
This treatise, called the Uttara Mimansa, is the standard authority of
Vedantism, — nay, is the most authoritative exposition of the Hindu
scriptures. The most antagonistic sects have been compelled, as it
were, to take up the texts of Vyasa, and harmonize them with their
own philosophy. Even in very ancient times, the commentators on the
Vedanta philosophy formed themselves into the three celebrated Hindu
sects of dualists, qualified non-dualists, and non-dualists. The ancient
commentaries are perhaps lost; but they have been revived in modern
times by the post-Buddhistic commentators Cankara, Ramanuja, and
Madhava. C^^nkara revived the non-dualistic form, Ramanuja the quali-
fied non-dualistic form of the ancient commentator Bodhavana, and
Madhava the dualistic form. In India the sects differ mainlv in their
philosophy; the difference in rituals is slight, philosophy and religion
being the same.
10 SWAMT VTVEKANANDA.
Prana acting on Akaga is creating or projecting*
universe. At the beginning of a cycle, Akaga is mol
less, unmanifesled. Then Prana begins to act, more and
more, creating grosser and grosser forms out of Akai;a, —
plants, animals, men, stars, and so on. After an incalcul-
able time this evolution ceases and involution begins,
everything being resolved back through finer and finer
forms into the original Akaga and Prana, when a new
cycle follows. Now there is something beyond Akaga J
and Prana. Both can be resolved into a third thing called I
Mahat,— the eo
We will n<
instance, — thi
c mind does not I
itself into them, '
I take up the beliefs about mind, soul, and
ing to the universally accepted Sankhya
1 perception,— in the case in vision, for
e are. first of all, the instrument or Kar-
anas of vision,— the eyes. Behind the instrument— the
eyes— is the organ of vision or Indriya,— the optic nerve
and its centres,— which is not the external instrument,
but without which the eyes will not see. More still is
needed for perception. The mind or Manas must come
and attach itself to the organ. And besides this, the sen-
sation must be carried to the intellect or BuddhI, — the
determination, reactive state of the mind. When the
reaction comes from Buddhi, along with it, flashes the
external world and egoism. Here then is the will; but
everything is not complete. Just as every picture, being
composed of successive impulses of light, must be united
on something stationary to form a whole, so all the
ideas in the mind must be gathered and projected (
something that is stationary— relatively to the body and]
mind,^that is, on what is called the soul or Purusha or J
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. H
According to the Sankhya philosophy, the reactive state
of the mind called Buddhi or intellect is the outcome, the
change, or a certain manifestation of the Mahat or cos-
mic mind. The Mahat becomes changed into vibrating
thought; and that becomes in one part changed into the
organs, and in the other part into Akaga and Prana. Out
of the combination of all these, the whole of this universe,
from Mahat down to the grossest objects, is produced.
Behind even Mahat, the Sankhya conceives of a certain
state which is called Avyaktam or unmanifested, wher^
even the manifestation of mind is not present, but only the
causes exist. It is also called Prakriti. Beyond this
Prakriti, and eternally separate from it, is the Purusha,
the soul of the Sankhya, which is without attributes and
omnipresent. The Purusha is not the doer but the wit-
ness. The illustration of the crystal is used to explain the
*Purusha. The latter is said to be like a crystal without
any color, before which different colors are placed, and
then it seems to be colored by all the colors before it,
but in reality it is not. The Vedantists reject the Sank-
hya ideas of the soul and nature. They claim, that between
them there is a huge gulf to be bridged over. On the
one hand the Sankhya system comes to nature, and then
at once it has to jump over to the other side and come to
the soul, which is entirely separate from nature. How can
these different colors, as the Sankhya calls them, be able
to act on that soul which by its nature is colorless? So
the Vedantists, from the very first, affirm that this soul
and this nature are one.* Even the dualistic Vedantists
admit the Atman or God is not only the efficient cause of \
this universe, but also the material cause. But they only \
* The Vedantist and the Sankhya philosophy are very little op-
posed to each other. The Vedantists' God developed out of the Sank-
hya's Purusha. All the systems take up the psychologry of the Sankhya.
Both the Vedanta and the Sankhya believe in the infinite soul, only
the Sankhya believes there are many souls. According to the Sankhya,
this universe does not require any explanation from outside. The
Vedantist believes there is the one Soul, which appears as many; and
we build on the Sankhya's analysis. (Talk of March 24, 1896.)
12 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
say SO in so many words. They do not really mean it,
for they try to escape from their conclusions in this
way. They say there are three existences in this universe,
— God, soul and nature. Nature and soul are, as it were,
the body of God, and in this sense it may be said that
God and the whole universe are one. But this nature and
all these various souls remain different from each other
through all eternity. Only at the begrinning of a cycle do
they become manifest; and when the cycle ends they be-
come fine, and remain in a fine state. The Adwaita Ve-
dantists — the non-dualisits — reject this theory of the soul,
and, having nearly the whole range of the Upanishads in
their favor, build their philosophy entirely upon them.
All the books contained in the Upanishads have one sub-
ject, one task before them, — ^to prove the following theme:
"Just as by the knowledge of one lump of clay we have
the knowledge of all the clay in the universe, so what is
that, knowing which we know everything in the uni-
verse?" The idea of the Adwaitists is to generalize the
whole universe into one, — that something which is really
the whole of this universe. And they claim that this
whole universe is one, that it is one Being manifesting
itself in all these various forms. They admit that what the
Sankhya calls nature exists, but say that nature is God.
It is this Being, the Sat, which has become converted into
all this, — the universe, men, soul, and everything that
exists. Mind and Mahat are but the manifestations of
that one Sat. But then the difficulty arises that this
would be pantheism. How came that Sat which is un-
changeable, as they admit (for that which is absolute is
unchangeable), to be changed into that which is change-
able a$^ perishable? The Adwaitists here have a theory
which they call Vivarta Vada or apparent manifestation.
According to the dualists and the Sankhyas, the whole
of this universe is the evolution of primal nature. Accord-
ing to some of the Adwaitists and some of the dualists,
the whole of this universe is evolved from God. And
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 13
according to the Adwaitists proper, the followers of Can-
karacharya, the whole universe is the apparent evolution
of God. God is the material cause of this universe, but
not really, only apparently. The celebrated illustration
used is that of the rope and the snake, where the rope
appeared to be the snake, but was not really so. The
rope did not really change into the snake. Even so this
whole universe as it exists is that Being. It is unchanged,
and all the changes we see in it are only apparent. These
changes^ are caused by Dega, Kala, and Nimitta (time,
space and causation), or, according to a higher psycholog-
ical generalization, by Kama and Rupa (name and form).
It is by name and form that one thing is differentiated
from another. The name and form alone cause the differ-
ence. In reality they are one and the same. Again, it
is not, the Vedantists say, that there is something as
phenomenon and something as noumenon. The rope is
changed into the snake only apparently; and when the de-
lusion ceases, the snake vanishes. When one is in ignor-
ance, he sees the phenomenon and does not see God. When
he sees God, this universe vanishes entirely. Ignorance or
Maya, as it is called, is the cause of all this phenomenon,
— the Absolute, the Unchangeable, being taken as this
manifested universe. This Maya is not absolute zero, not
non-existence. It is defined as neither existence nor
non-existence. It is not existence, because that can be
said only of the Absolute, the Unchangeable, and in this
sense Maya is non-existence. Again it cannot be said it
is non-existence; for if it were, it could never produce the
phenomenon. So it is something which is neither; and in
the Vedanta Philosophy it is called Anirvachaniya or in-
expressible. Maya then is the real cause of this uni-
verse. Maya gives the name and form to what Brahman
or God gives the material; and the latter seems to have
been transformed into all this. The Adwaitists, then,
have no place for the individual soul. They say individual
souls are created by Maya. In reality they cannot exist.
14 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
If there were only one existence throughout, how could
it be that I am one, and you are one, and so forth? We are
all one, and the cause of evil is the perception of duality.
As soon as I begin to feel that I am separate from this
universe, then first comes fear and then comes misery.
"Where one hears another, one sees another, that is small.
Where one does not seen one, where one does not hear
another, that is the gr^'catest, that is God. In that greatest
is perfect happiness. In small things there is no hap-
According to the Adwaita Philosophy, then, this differ-
entiation of matter, these phenomena, are, as it were, for a
time hiding the real nature of man; but the latter really
has not been changed at all. In the lowest worm, as well
as in the highest human being, the same divine nature is
present. The worm form is the lower form, in which the
divinity has been more overshadowed by Maya; that is
the highest form in which it has been least overshad-
owed. Behind everything the same divinity is existing,
and out of this comes the basis of morality. Do not
injure another. Love every one as your own self, because
the whole universe is one. In injuring another, I am in-
juring myself; in loving another, I am loving myself.
From this also springs that principle of Adwaita morality
which has been summed up in one word — self-abnegation.
The Adwaitist says this little personalized self is the
cause of all my misery . This individualized self, which
makes me different from all other beings, brings hatred
and jealousy and misery, struggles and all other evils.
And when this idea has been got rid of, all struggle will
cease, all misery vanish. So this is to be given up. We
must always hold ourselves ready, even to give up our
lives for the lowest beings. When a man has become
ready even to give up his life for a little insect, he has
reached the perfection which the Adwaitist wants to
attain; and at that moment when he has become thus ready,
the veil of ignorance will be taken away from him, and he
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 15
will feel his own nature. Even in this life he will feel
that he is one with the universe. For a time, as it were,
the whole of this phenomenal world will disappear for
him, and he will realize what he is. But so long as the
Karma of this body remains, he will have to live. This
state, when the veil has vanished and yet the body remains
for some time, is what the Vedantists call the Jivan Mukti,
the living freedom. If a man is deluded by a mirage for
some time, but one day the mirage disappears, — if it
comes back again the next day or at some future time, he
will not be deluded. Before the mirage first broke, the man
could not distinguish between the reality and the
deception. But when it has once broken, as long as he
has organs and eyes to work with, he will have to see the
image, but will no more be deluded. That fine distinction
between the actual world and the mirage he has caught,
and the latter cannot delude him any more. So when the
Vedantist has realized his own nature, the whole world
has vanished for him. It will come back again, but no
more the same world of misery. The prison of misery
has become changed into Sat, Chit, Ananda, — Existence
Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute, — and the
attainment of this is the goal of the Adwaita philosophy.
A^ •( '■
16 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
I should like to know something about the present activity of philo-
sophic thought in India. To what extent are these questions discussed?
As I have said, the majority of the Indian people are
practically dualists, and the minority are monists. The
main subject of discussion is Maya and Jiva. When I
came to this country, I found that the laborers were in-
formed of the present condition of politics; but when I
asked them what is religion, and what are the doctrines
of this and that particular sect, they said: "We do not
know; we go to church." In India if I go to a peasant
and ask him^ "Who governs you?" he says, "I do not
know; I pay my taxes." But if I ask him what is his
religion, he says "I am a dualist," and is ready to give
you the details about Maya and Jiva. He cannot read or
write, but he has learned all this from the monks and is
very fond of discussing it. After the day's work, the
peasants sit under a tree and discuss these questions.
What does orthodoxy mean with the Hindus?
In modern times it simply means obeying certain caste
laws as to eating, drinking and marriage. After that the
Hindu can believe in any system he likes. There was
never an organized church in India; so there was never
a body of men to formulate doctrines of orthodoxy. In a
general way, we say that those who believe in the Vedas
are orthodox; but in reality we find that many of the
dualistic sects believe more in the Puranas* than in the
* Puranas, "old things," — popular explanations of the Vedas.
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 17
What influence had your Hindu philosophy on the Stoic philosophy
of the Greeks?
It is very probable that it had some influence on it
through the Alexandrians. There is some suspicion of
Pythagoras' being influenced by the Sankhya thought.
Any way, we think the Sankhya philosophy is the first
attempt to harmonize the philosophy of the Vedas through
reason. We find Kapila mentioned even in the Vedas, —
"Thou who produced the sage Kapila."
What is the antagonism of this thought with Western science?
No antagonism at all. We are in harmony with it. Our "^f .
theory of evolution and of Akaga and Prana is exactly ^
what your modern philosophies have. Your belief in f} ^
evolution is among our Yogis and in the Sankhya philos- ^^
ophy. For instance, Patanjali speaks of one species being
changed into another by the infilling of nature; only he
differs from you in the explanation. His explanation of \
this evolution is spiritual. He says that, just as when a
farmer wants to water his field from the canals that
pass near, he has only to lift up his gate, — so each man is
the Infinite already, only these bars and bolts and different
circumstances shut him in, but as soon as they are re-
moved he rushes out and expresses himself. In the animal,
the man was held in abeyance, but as soon as good circum-
stances came, he was manifested as man. And again, as
soon as fitting circumstances came, the God in man mani-
fested itself. So we have very little to quarrel with in the
new theories. For instance, the theory of the Sankhya
as to perception is very little different from the modern
But your method is different.
Yes. We claim that concentrating the powers of the
mind is the only way to knowledge. In external science,
concentration of mind is putting it on something external;
and in internal science, it is drawing towards one's self.
We call this concentration of mind "Yoga."
18 . SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
In the state of concentration does the truth of these principles be-
The Yogies claim a good deal. They claim that by con-
centration of the mind every truth in the universe becomes
evident to the mind, both external and internal truth.
The Adwaitist would say that all this cosmology and
everything else is only in Maya, in the phenomenal world.
In truth they do not exist. But as long as we are bound,
we have to see these visions. Within these visions things
come in certain regular order. Beyond them there is no
law and order, but freedom.
The Upanishads not being in a systematized form, it was
easy for philosophers to take up texts where they liked to
form a system. Therefore the Upanishads had always to
be taken, else there would be no basis. Yet we find all
the different schools of thought in the Upanishads. Our
solution is that the Adwaita is not antagonistic to the
dualistic. We say the latter is only one of three steps.
Religion always takes three steps. The first is dualism.
Then man gets to a higher state, partial non-dualism.
And at last he finds he is one with the universe. Therefore
the three do not contradict, but fulfil.
Why does Maya, or ignorance, exist?
Why cannot be asked beyond the limit of causation. It
can only be asked within Maya. We say we will answer the
question when it is logically formulated. Before that we
have no right to answer.
Does the personal God belong to Maya?
Yes; but the personal God is the same Absolute seen
through Maya. That Absolute under the control of nature
is what is called the human soul; and that which is con-
trolling nature is Igwara or the personal God. If a man
starts from here to see the sun, he will see at first a little
sun; but as he proceeds he will see it bigger and bigger,
until he reaches the real one. At each stage of his prog-
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 19
ress he was seeing apparently a different sun; yet we are
sure it was the same sun he was seeing. So all these
things are but visions of the Absolute, and as such they are
true. Not one is a false vision, but we can only say they
were lower stages.
What is the special process by which one will come to know the
We say there are two processes. One is the positive,
and the other the negative. The positive is that through
which the whole universe is going, — that of love. If this
circle of love is increased indefinitely, we reach the one
universal love. The other is the Neti, Neti, — "not this,
not this," — stopping every wave in the mind which tries
to draw it out; and at last the mind dies, as it were, and
the real discloses itself. We call that super-conscious-
ness or Samadhi.
That would be, then, merging the subject in the object!
Merging the object in the subject, not merging the sub-
ject in the object. Really this world dies and I remain. I
am the only one that remains.
Some of our philosophers in Germany have thought that the whole
doctrine of Bhakti (love) in India was very likely the result of Oc-
I do not take any stock in that, — the assumption was
ephemeral. The Bhakti of India is not like the Western
Bhakti. The central idea of ours is that there is no
thought of fear. It is always, love God. There is no
worship through fear, but always through love, from
beginning to end. In the second place, the assumption
is quite unnecessary. Bhakti is spoken of in the oldest of
the Upanishads, which is much older than the Christian
era. The germs of Bhakti are in the Sanhita even (the
Vedic hymns). The word Bhakti is not a Western word.
It was suggested by the word Craddha.
20 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
What is the Indian idea of the Christian faith?
That it is very good. The Vedanta will take in every
one. We have a peculiar idea in India. Suppose I had
/ f a child. I should not teach him any religion; I should teach
him breathings, — the practice of concentrating the mind,
' and just one line of prayer, — not prayer in your sense,
but simply, "I meditate on Him who is the Creator of
this universe; may he enlighten my mind." That way he
would be educated, and then go about hearing different
philosophers and teachers. He would select one who he
thought would suit him best; and this man would become
his Guru or teacher, and he would become a Cishya or
disciple. He would say to that man: "This form of phil-
osophy which you preach is the best; so teach me." Our
I fundamental idea is that your doctrine cannot be mine, or
\mine yours. Each one must have his own way. My
daughter may have one method and my son another, and
I another. So each one has an Ishtam or chosen way, and
we keep it to ourselves. It is between me and my teach-
er, because we do not want to create a fight. It will not
help any one t6 tell it, because each one will have to find
his own way. So only general philosophy and general
methods can be taught universally. For instance, giving
a ludicrous example, it may help me to stand on one leg.
It would be ludicrous to you if I said every one must do
that, but it may suit me. It is quite possible for me to be
a dualist, and for my wife to be a monist, and so on. One
of my sons may worship Christ or Buddha or Mohammed,
so long as he obeys the caste laws. That is his own
Do all Hlhdus believe in catte?
They are forced to. They may not believe, but they
have to obey.
Are these exercises in breathing and concentration uniyersally prac-
\ Yes; only some practice only a little, just to satisfy the
r ' '" requirements of their religion. The temples in India are
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 21
not like the churches here. They may all vanish to-mor-
row, and will not bo massed. A temple is built by a man
who wants to go to heaven, or to get a son, or something
of that sort. So he builds a large temple, and employs a
few priests to hold services there. I need not go there at
all, because all my worship is in the home. In every
house is a special room set apart, which is called the
chapel. The first duty of the child, after his initiation, is
to take a bath, and then to worship; and his worship con-
sists of this breathing and meditating, and repeating of a
certain name. And another thing is to hold the body
straight. We believe that the mind has every power over
the body to keep it healthy. After one has done this, then
another comes and takes his seat, and each one does it in
silence. Sometimes there are three or four in the same
room, but each one may have a different method. This
worship is repeated at least twice a day.
This state of oneness that you speak of, is it an ideal or something
We say it is within actuality; we say we realize that
state. If it were only in talk, it would be nothing. The
Vedas teach three things: this Self is first to be heard, then
to be reasoned, and then to be meditated. When a man
first hears it, he must reason on it, so that he does not
believe it ignorantly, but knowingly; and after reason-
ing what he is, he must meditate upon it, and then realize
it. And that is religion. Belief is no part of religion.
We say religion is a super-conscious state.
If you ever reach that state, can you ever tell about it?
No; but we know it by its fruits. An idiot, when he
goes to sleep, comes out of sleep an idiot, or even worse.
But another man goes into the state of meditation, and
when he comes out he is a philosopher, a sage, a great
man. That shows the difference between these two states.
I should like to ask, in continuation of Professor ■ -'s question,
whether you know of any people who have made any study of the
22 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
principles of self-hynotism, which they undoubtedly practised to a great
extent in ancient India, and what has been recently stated and prac-
tised in that thing? Of course you do not have it so much in modern
What you call hypnotism in the West is only a part of
the real thing. The Hindus call it self-de-hypnotization.
They say you are hypnotized already, and that you should
get out of it and de-hypnotize yourself. "There the sun
cannot illume, nor the moon nor the stars; the flash of
lightning cannot illume that; what to speak of this mortal
fire. That shining, everything else shines." That is not
hypnotization, but de-hypnotization. We say that every
other religion that preaches these things as real is prac-
ticing a form of hypnotism. It is the Adwaitist alone that
does not care to be hypnotized. His is the only system
that more or less understands that hypnotism comes with
every form of dualism. But the Adwaitist says, throw
away even the Vedas, throw away even the personal God,
throw away even the universe, throw away even your
own body and mind, and let nothing remain, in order to
get rid of hypnotism perfectly. "From where the mind
comes back, being unable to reach with speech, knowing
Brahman, no more is fear." That is de-hypnotization.
"I have neither vice nor virtue nor misery nor happiness;
I have neither the Vedas nor sacrifices nor ceremonies; I
am neither food nor eating nor eater, for I am Existence
Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute; I am He,
I am He." We know all about hypnotism. We have a
psychology which the West is just beginning to know,
but not yet adequately, I am sorry to say.
What do you call the astral body?
The astral body is what we call the Linga Carira. When
this body dies, how can it come to take another body?
Force cannot remain without matter. So a little part of
the fine matter remains, through which the internal organs
make another body, — for each one is making his own body;
it is the mind that makes the body. If I become a sage.
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 23
my brain gets changed into a sage's brain; and the Yogis
say that even in this life a Yogi can change his body into
The Yogis show many wonderful things. One ounce of *f ^.^
practice is worth a thousand pounds of theory. So I have j .
no right to say that because I have not seen this or that
thing done it is wrong. Their books say that with prac-
tice you can get all sorts of results that are most wonder-
ful. Small results can be obtained in a short time by regu-
lar practice; so that one may know that there is no hum-
bug about it, no charlatanism. And these Yogis explain
the very wonderful things mentioned in all scriptures in
a scientific way. The question is, how these records of
miracles entered into every nation. The man who says that
they are all false, and need no explanation, is not rational.
You have no right to deny them until you can prove them
false. You must prove that they are without any founda-
tion, and only then have you the right to stand up and
deny them. But you have not done that. On the other
hand, the Yogis say they are not miracles, and they claim
that they can do them even to-day. Many wonderful
things are done in India to-day. But none of them are
done by miracles. There are many books on the subject.
Again, if nothing else has been done in that line except a
scientific approach towards psychology, that credit must
be given to the Yogis.
Can you say in the concrete what the manifestations are which the
Yogi can show?
The Yogi wants no faith or belief in his science but that
which is given to any other science, just enough gentle-
manly faith to come and make the experiment. The ideal
of the Yogi is tremendous. I have seen the lower things
that can be done by the power of the mind, and therefore
I have no right to disbelieve that the highest things can
be done. The ideal of the Yogi is eternal peace and love
through omniscience and omnipotence. I know a Yogi
24 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
who was bitten by a cobra, and who fell down on the
ground. In the evening he revived again, and when asked
what happened, he said, "A messenger came from my
beloved." All hatred and anger and jealousy have been
burned out of this man. Nothing can make him react; he is
infinite love all the time, and he is omnipotent in his
power of love. That is the real Yogi. And this manifesting
different things is accidental, on the way. That is not
what he wants to attain. The Yogi says every man is a
slave except the Yogi. He is a slave to food, to air, to
his wife, to his children, to a dollar, slave to a nation,
slave to name and fame, and to a thousand things in this
world. The man who is not controlled by any one of
these bondages is alone a real man, a real Yogi. "They
have conquered heaven in this life who are firm fixed in
this sameness. God is pure and the same to all. There-
fore such are said to be fixed in God."
Do the Yogis attach any importance to caste?
No; caste is only the training school for undeveloped
Is there no connection between this idea of super-consciousness and
the heat of India?
I do not think so; because all this philosophy was thought
out fifteen thousand feet above the level of the sea among
the Himalayas in an almost Arctic temperature.
Is it practicable to attain success in a cold climate?
It is practicable, and the only thing that is practicable
in this world. We say you are a born Vedantist, each one
of you. You are declaring your oneness with everything
each moment you live. Every time that your heart goes
out towards the world, you are a true Vedantist, only you
do not know it. You are moral without knowing why;
and the Vedanta is the philosophy which analyzed and
taught man to be moral consciously. It is the essence of
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 25
Should you say that there is an unsocial principle in our Western
people which makes us so pluralistic, and that Eastern people are
more sympathetic than we are?
I think the Western people are more cruel, and the
Eastern people have more mercy towards all beings. But
that is simply bcause your civilization is very much more
recent. It takes time to make a thing come under the influ-
ence of mercy. You have a great deal of power, but heart- j ^
culture has not progressed equally along with this acqui-
sition of power, and the power of control of the mind has
especially been very little practiced. It will take time to
make you gentle and good. This feeling tingles in every
drop of blood in India. If I go to the villages to teach
the people politics, they will not understand; but if I go
to teach them Vedanta, they say: "Now, Swami, you are
all right." That Vairagyam, "non-attachment," is every-
where in India, even to-day. We are very much degen-
erated now, but kings will give up their thrones and g6
about the country without anything.
In some places the common village girl with her spin-
ning-wheel says: "Do not talk to me of dualism; my
spinning-wheel says So'ham, So'ham, *I am He, I am
He.' " Go and talk to these people, and ask them why it
is that they speak so and yet kneel before that stone.
They will say that with you religion means dogma, but
with them realization. "I will be a Vedantist," one of
them will say, "only when all this has vanished, and I have
seen the reality. Until then there is no difference between
me and the ignorant. So I am using these stones, and am
going to temples, and so on, to come to realization. I
have heard, but I want to see and realize." "Different
methods of speech, different manners of explaining the
methods of the scriptures, — these are only for the enjoy-
ment of the learned, not for freedom." (Cankara). It is
realization which leads us to that freedom.
Is this spiritual freedom among the people consistent with atten-
tion to caste?
26 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
Certainly not. They say there should be no caste. Even
those who are in caste say it is not a very perfect institu-
tion. But they say, when you find us another and a better
one, we will give it up. They say, what will you give us
instead? Where is there not caste? In your nation you
are struggling all the time to make a caste. As soon as
a man gets a bag of dollars, he says, "I am one of the
Four Hundred." We alone have succeeded in making a
permanent caste. Other nations are struggling and do not
succeed. We have superstitions and evils enough. Would
taking the superstitions and evils from your country mend
matters? It is owing to caste that three hundred millions
of people can find a piece of bread to eat yet. It is an
imperfect institution, no doubt. But if it had not been for
caste, you would have had no Sanskrit books to study.
This caste made walls, around which all sorts of invasions
rolled and surged, but found it impossible to break through.
That necessity has not gone yet, so caste remains. The
caste we have now is not that of seven hundred years
ago. Every blow has riveted it. Do you realize that India
is the only country that never went outside of itself to
conquer? The great emperor Asoka insisted that none of
his descendants should go to conquer. If people want to
send us teachers, let them help, but not injure. Why
should all these people come to conquer the Hindus?
Did they do any injury to any nation? What little good
they could do they did for the world. They taught it
science, philosophy, religion, and civilized the savage
hordes of the earth. And this is the return,— only murder
and tyranny, and calling them heathen rascals. Look at
the books written on India by Western people, and at
the stories of many travellers who go there; in retaliation
for what injuries are these hurled at them?
You are philosophers, and you do not think that a bag
of gold makes the difference between man and man. What
is the value of all these machines and sciences? They have
only one result; they spread knowledge. You have not
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 27
solved the problem of want, but only made it keener.
Machines do not solve the poverty question; they simply
make men struggle the more. Competition gets keener.
What value has nature in itself? Why do you go and build
a monument to a man who sends electricity through a
wire? Does not nature do that millions of times over? Is
not everything already existing in nature? What is the
value of your getting it? It was already there. The only
value is that it makes this development. This universe
is simply a gymnasium in which the soul is taking exer-
cise; and after these exercises we become gods. So the
value of everything is to be decided by how far it is a
manifestation of God. Civilization is the manifestation
of that divinity in man.
Have the Buddhists any caste laws?
The Buddhists never had much caste, and there are very
few Buddhists in India. Buddha was a social reformer.
Yet in Buddhistic countries I find that there have been
strong attempts to manufacture caste, only they have
failed. The Buddhists' caste is practically nothing, but
they take pride in it in their own minds.
Buddha was one of the Sannyasins of the Vedanta. He
started a new sect, just as others are started even to-day.
The ideas which are now called Buddhism were not his.
They were much more ancient. He was a great man who
gave the ideas power. The unique element in Buddhism
was its social element. Brahmans and Kshatriyas have
always been our teachers, and most of the Upanishads
were written by Kshatriyas, while the ritualistic portions
of the Vedas came from the Brahmans. Most of our
great teachers throughout India have been Kshatriyas, and
were always universal in their teachings; whilst the Brah-
man prophets with two exceptions were very exclusive.
Rama, Krishna, and Buddha, — ^worshipped as incarnations
of God, — were Kshatriyas.
28 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
When a man realizes, he gives up everything. The vari-
ous sects and ceremonies and books, so far as they are
the means of arriving at that point, are all right. But
when they fail in that, we must change them. "The know-
ing one must not despise the condition of the ignorant,
nor should the knowing one destroy the faith of the igno-
rant in their own particular method, but by proper action
lead them, and show them the path to come to where he
This real individual is the Absolute; this personalization
is through Maya. It is only apparent; in reality it is
always the Absolute. In reality there is one, but in Maya
it is appearing as many. In Ma3ra there is this variation.
Yet even in this Maya there is always the tendency to get
back to the one, as expressed in all ethics and all morality
of every nation, because it is the constitutional necessity
of the soul. It is finding its oneness; and this struggle to
find this oneness is what we call ethics and morality.
Therefore we must always practice them.
Is not the greater part of ethics taken up with the relation between
That is all it is. The Absolute does not come within
You say the individual is the Absolute, and I was going to ask
you whether the individual has knowledge.
The state of manifestation is individuality, and the light
in that state is what we call knowledge. To use, there-
fore, this term knowledge for the light of the Absolute is
not precise, as the Absolute state transcends relative
Does it include it?
Yes; in this sense. Just as a piece of gold can be
changed into all sorts of coins, so with this. The state can
be broken up into all sorts of knowledge. It is the state
of super-consciousness, and includes both consciousness
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 29
and unconsciousness. The man who attains that state has
all that we call knowledge. When he wants to realize
that consciousness or knowledge, he has to go a step
lower. Knowledge is a lower state; it is only in Maya that
we can have knowledge.
30 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
ANSWERS AND SELECTIONS.
1. Personally I take as much of the Vedas as agrees
with reason. Parts of the Vedas are apparently contradic-
tory. They are not considered as inspired in the Western
sense of the word, but as the sum total of the knowledge
of God, omniscience. This knowledge comes out at the
beginning of a cycle and manifests itself; and when the
cycye ends, it goes down into minute form. When the
cycle is projected again, that knowledge is projected again
with it. So far the theory is all right. But that only these
books which are called the Vedas are this knowledge is
mere sophistry. Manu says in one place that that part of
the Vedas which agrees with reason is the Vedas, and
nothing else. Many of our philosophers have taken this
2. All the criticism against the Adwaita philosophy
can be summed up in this: — that it does not conduce to
sense enjoyments; and we are glad to admit that.
3. The Vedanta system begins with tremendous pessi-
mism, and ends with real optimism. We deny the sense
optimism, but assert the real optimism of the super-sensu-
ous. That real happiness is not in the senses, but above
the sense; and it is in every man. The sort of optimism
which we see in the world is what will lead to ruin through
4. Abnegation has the greatest importance in our phil-
osophy. Negation implies affirmation of the Real Self.
It is pessimistic as far as it negates the world of the
senses, but it is optimistic in its assertion of the real
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 31
5. Of all the scriptures of the world, it is the Vedas
alone that declare that even the study of the Vedas is
secondary. The real study is that "by which we realise
the Unchangeable." And that is neither reading, nor
believing, nor reasoning, but super-conscious perception
6. What is the cause of the illusion? The question
has been asked for the last three thousand years; and the
only answer is, when the world is able to formulate a
logical question, we will answer it. The question is
contradictory. Our position is that the Absolute has be-
come this relative only apparently, that the unconditioned
has become the conditioned only in Maya. By the very
admission of the unconditioned, we admit that the Abso-
lute cannot be acted upon by anything else. It is un-
causedy which means that nothing outside itself can act
-upon it. First of all, if it is unconditioned, it cannot have
been acted upon by anything else. In the unconditioned
there cannot be time, space, or causation. That granted,
your question will be: "What caused that which cannot
be caused by anything to be changed into this?" Your
question is only possible in the conditioned. But you take
it out of the conditioned, and want to ask it in the uncon-
ditioned. Only when the unconditioned becomes condi-
tioned, and space, time, and causation come in, can the
question be asked. We can only say ignorance makes the
illusion. The question is impossible. Nothing can have
worked in the Absolute. There was no cause. Not that
we do not know, or that we are ignorant; but it is above
"knowledge, and cannot be brought down to the plane of
knowledge. We can use the words, "I do not know,"
in two senses. In one way they mean that we are lower
than knowledge, and in the other way that the thing is
above knowledge. The X rays have become known now.
The very causes of these are disputed, but we are sure
that we shall know them. Here we can say we do not
32 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
know about the X rays. But about the Absolute we can-
not know. In the case of the X rays we do not know, al-
though it is within the range of knowledge; only we do
not know it yet. But, in the other case, it is so much
beyond knowledge that it ceases to be a matter of know-
ing. *'By what means can the knower be known?" You
are always yourself, and cannot objectify yourself. This
was one of the arguments used by our philosophers
to prove immortality. If I try to think I am lying dead,
what have I to imagine? That I am standing and look-
ing down at myself, at some dead body. So that I cannot
7. Evolution. In the matter of the projection of
Akaga and Prana into manifested form, and the return to
fine state, there is a good deal of similarity between Indian
thought and modern science. The moderns have their
evolution, and so have the Yogis. But I think that the
Yogis* explanation of evolution is the better one. "The
change of one species into another is attained by the
infilling of nature." The basic idea is that we are chang-
ing from one species to another, and that man is the high-
est species. Patanjali explains this "infilling of nature"
by the simile of peasants irrigating fields. Our education
and progression simply means taking away the obstacles,
and by its own nature the divinity will manifest itself.
This does away with all the struggle for existence. The
miserable experiences of life are simply in the way, and
can be eliminated entirely. They are not necessary for
evolution. Even if they did not exist, we should progress.
It is in the very nature of things to manifest themselves
The momentum is not from outside, but comes from
inside. Each soul is the sum total of the universal experi-
ences already coiled up there; and of all these experiences
only those will come out which find suitable circumstances.
So the external things can only give us the environments.
These competitions and struggles and evils that we see
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 33
are not the effect of the involution or the cause, but they
are in the way. If they did not exist, still man would go
on and evolve as God, because it is the very nature o!
that God to come out and manifest Himself. To my mind
this seems very hopeful, instead of that horrible idea of
competition. The more I study history, the more I find
that idea to be wrong. Some say that if man did not
fight with man he would not progress. I used to think so,
but I find now that every war has thrown back human pro-
gress by fifty years instead of hurrying it forward. The
day will come when men will study history from a differ-
ent light, and find that competition is neither the cause
nor the effect, simply things on the way, not necessary to
evolution at all. The theory of Patanjali is the only the-
ory I think a rational man can accept. How much evil
the modern system causes! Every wicked man has a
license to be wicked under it. I have seen in this country
physicists who say that all criminals ought to be exter-
minated, and that that is the only way in which criminal-
ity can be eliminated from society. These environments
can hinder, but they are not necessary to progress. The
most horrible thing about the way of competition is that
one may conquer the environments, but that where one
may conquer, thousands are crowded out. So it is evil
at best. That cannot be good which helps only one
and hinders the majority. Patanjali says that these
struggles remain only through our ignorance, and are not
necessary, and are not part of the evolution of man. It
is just our impatience which creates them. We have not
the patience to go and work our way out. For instance,
there is a fire in a theatre, and only a few escape. The rest
in trying to rush out crush each other down. That
crush was not necessary for the salvation of the building,
nor of the two or three who escaped. If all had gone out
slowly, not one would have been hurt. That is the case
in life. The doors are open for us, and we can all get
out without the competition and struggle; and yet we
34 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
Struggle. The struggle* we create through our own igno-
rance, through impatience; we are in too great a hurry.
The highest manifestation of strength is to keep ourselves
calm and on our own feet.
8. Each soul is a circle. The centre is where the body
is, and the activity is manifested there. You are omni-
present, though you have the consciouness of being con-
centrated in only one point. That point has tak^n up
particles of matter, and formed them into a machine to
express itself. That through which it expresses itself is
called the body. You are everywhere. When one body or
machine fails you, the centre moves on and takes up
other particles of matter, finer or grosser, and works
through them. Here is man, and what is God? God is a
circle, with circumference nowhere, and centre every-
where. Every point in that circle is living, conscious,
active, and equally working. With our limited souls, only
one point is conscious, and that point moves forward and
9. Soul in a circle whose circumference is nowhere
(limitless) but whose centre is in some body. Death is
but a change of centre. God is a circle whose circum-
ference is nowhere, and whose centre is everywhere.
When we can get out of the limited centre of body, we
shall reailze God, our true Self.
10. Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to
manifest the divinity within, by controlling nature, exter-
nal and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or
psychic control, or philosophy, — by one or more or all
these, — and be free. This is all of religion. Doctrines,
or dogmas, or rituals,, or books, or temples, or forms, are
but secondary details.
11. Jnanam (knowledge) is "creedlessness;" but that
does not mean that it despises creeds. It only means that
a stage above and beyond creeds has been gained. The
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 35
nani (true philosopher) strives to destroy nothing, but
to help all. All rivers roll their waters into the sea and
become one, so all creeds should lead to Jnanam and
Jnanam teaches that the world should be renounced,
but not on that account abandoned. To live in the
world and be not of it, is the true test of renunciation.
12. The Vedantist says that a man neither is born nor
dies nor goes to heaven, and that reincarnation is really
a myth with regard to the soul. The example is given of
a book being turned over. It is the book that evolves,
not the man. Every soul is omnipresent, so where can
it come or go? These births and deaths are changes
in nature which we are mistaking for changes in us.
13. Reincarnation is the evolution of nature and the
manifestation of the God within.
14. The Vedanta says that each life is built upon the
past, and that when we can look back over the whole past
we are free. The desire to be free will take the form of
a religious disposition from childhood. A few years
will, as it were, make all truth clear to one. After leav-
ing this life, and while waiting for the next, a man is still
in the phenomenal. ,
15. The struggle never had meaning for the man who
is free. But for us it has a meaning, because it is name^
and form that creates the world.
16. I cannot see how it can be otherwise than that all
knowledge is stored up in us from the beginning. If
you and I are little waves in the ocean, then that ocean
is the background.
17. We would describe the soul in these words: "This
soul the sword cannot cut, nor the spear pierce; him the
fire cannot burn nor water melt; indestructible, omni-
present is this soul. Therefore weep not for it."
36 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
If it has been very bad, we believe that it will become
good in the time to come. The fundamental principle is
.that there is eternal freedom for every one. Every one
must come to it. We have to struggle, impelled by our
desires to be free. Every other desire but that to be free
is illusive. Every good action, the Vedantist says, is a
manifestation of that freedom.
I do not believe that there will come a time when all
the evil in the world will vanish. How could it be? This
stream goes, on. Masses of water go out at one end, but
masses are ready at the other end.
The Vedanta says that you are pure and perfect, and
that there is a state beyond good and evil, and that is
your own nature. It is higher even than good. Good is
only a lesser differentiation than evil.
18. We have no theory of evil. We call it ignorance.
19. So far as it goes, all dealing with other people,
all ethics, are in the phenomenal world. As a most com-
plete statement of truth, we would not think of applying
such things as ignorance to God. Of Him we say that
He is Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute. Every
effort of thought and speech will make the Absolute phe-
nomenal, and break its character.
, 20. There is one thing to be remembered; that the as-
sertion cannot be made with regard to the sense world.
If you say in the sense world that you are God, what is to
prevent your doing wrong? So the affirmation of your
divinity applies only to the noumenal. If I am God, I am
beyond the tendencies of the senses, and will not do
evil. Morality of course, is not the goal of man, but the
means through which this freedom is attained. The Ve-
danta says that Yoga is one way that makes men realize
this divinity. The Vedanta says that this is done by the
realization of the freedom within, and that everything
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. Zl
will give way to that. Morality and ethics will all range
themselves in their proper places.
21. We have a place for struggle in the Vedanta, but
not for fear. All fears will vanish when you begin to
assert your own nature. If you think that you are bound,
bound you will remain. If you think you are free, free
you will be.
22. That sort of freedom which we can feel when we
are yet in the phenomenal is a glimpse of the real, but
not yet the real.
23. There is really no difference between matter, mind,
and spirit. They are only different phases of experiencing
the one. This very world is seen by the five senses as
matter, by the very wicked as hell, by the good as heaven,
and by the perfect as God.
24. The Vedanta recognizes the reasoning power of
man a good deal, although it says there is something high-
er than intellect; but the road lies through intellect.
25. If we can stop all thought, then we know that we are
beyond thought. We come to this by negation. When
every phenomenon has been negated, whatever remains,
that is it. That cannot be expressed, cannot be manifested,
because the manifestation will be again will.
26. It is true that we create a system, but have to
admit that it is not perfect, because the reality must be
beyond all systems. We are ready to compare it with
other systems, and are ready to show that this is the
only rational system that can be; but it is not perfect
because reason is not perfect. It is, however, the only
possible rational system that the human mind can con-
It is true to a certain extent that a system must dis-
seminate itself to be strong. No system has disseminated
itself so much as the Vedanta. It is the personal contact
28 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
that teaches even now. This mass of reading does not
make men; those who were real men were made by per-
sonal contact. It is true that there are very few of these
real men, but they will increase. Yet you cannot believe
that there will come a day when we shall all be philoso-
phers. We do not believe that there will come a time when
there will be all happiness and no unhappiness.
« 27. The Vedanta philosophy is the foundation of Budd-
hism and everything else in India; but what we call the
JCl^i^ Adwaita philosophy of the modern school has a great
* many conclusions of the Buddhists. Of course the Hindus
will not admit that, — that is, the orthodox Hindus, because
to them the Buddhists are heretics. But there is a con-
scious attempt to stretch out the whole doctrine to include
the heretics also.
28. The Vedanta has no quarrel with Buddhism. The
idea of the Vedanta is to harmonize all. With the north-
ern Buddhists we have no quarrel at all. But the Bur-
mese and Siamese and all the southern Buddhists say that
there is a phenomenal world, and ask what right we have
to create a noumenal world behind this. The answer of
the Vedanta is that this is a false statement. The Vedanta
never contended that there is a noumenal and a phenom-
enal. There is one. Seen through the senses it is phe-
nomenal, but it is really the noumenal all the time. The
man who sees the rope does not see the snake. It is either
the rope or the snake; but never the two. So the Budd-
histic statement of our position that we believe there
are two worlds is entirely false. They have the right to
say it is the phenomenal if they like, but no right to con-
tend that other men have not the right to say it is the
29. Will. Buddhism does not want to have anything
except phenomena. In phenomena alone is there desire.
It is desire that is creating all this. Modern Vedantists
do not hold this at all. We say there is something which
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 39
has become the will. Will is a manufactured something,
a compound, not a simple. There cannot be any will with-
out an external object. We see that the very position
that will created this universe is impossible. How could
it? Have you ever known will without external stimu-
lus? Desire cannot arise without stimulus, or, in modern
philosophic language, of nerve stimulus. Will is a sort
of reaction of the brain, what the Sankhya philosophers
call Buddhi. This reaction must be preceded by action,
and action presupposes an external universe. When there
is no external universe, naturally there will be no will;
and yet, according to your theory, it is will that created
the universe. Who creates the will? Will is coexistent
with the universe. Will is one phenomenon caused by the
same impulse which created the universe. But philosophy
must not stop there. Will is entirely personal; there-
fore we cannot go with Schopenhauer at all. Will is a
compound, — a mixture of the internal and the external.
Suppose a man were born without any senses, he would
have no will at all. Will requires something from out-
side, and the brain will get some energy from inside;
therefore will is a compound, as much a compound as the
wall or anything else. We do not agree with the will of
these German philosophers at all. Will itself is phenom-
enal, and cannot be the Absolute. It is one of the many
projections. There is something which is not will, but
is manifsting itself as will. That I can understand.
But that will is manifesting itself as everything else, I
do not understand, seeing that we cannot have any con-
ception of will, as separate from the universe. When
that freedom becomes will, it is caused by time, space, and
causation. Take Kant's analysis. Will is within time,
space, and causation. Then how can it be the Absolute?
One cannot will without willing in time.
30. We cannot bring it to sense demonstration that
Brahman is the only real thing; but we can point out that
40 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
this is the only conclusion that can be come to. For in-
stance, there must be this oneness in everything, even
in common things. There is the human generalization,
for example. We say that all the variety is created by
name and form; yet when we want to grasp and separate
it, it is nowhere. We can never see name or form or
causes standing by themselves. So this phenomenon is
Maya, — something which depends on the noumenal and
apart from it has no existence. Take a wave in the
ocean. That wave exists as long as that quantity of
water remains in a wave form; but as soon as the wave
goes down and becomes the ocean, the wave ceases to
exist. But the whole mass of water does not depend so
much on its form. The ocean remains, while the wave
form becomes absolute zero.
31. The real is one. It is the mind which makes it
appear as many. When we perceive the diversity, the
unity has gone; and as soon as we' perceive the unity,
the diversity has vanished. Just as in every-day life, when
you perceive the unity, you do not perceive the diversity.
At the beginning you start with unity. It is a curious
fact that a Chinaman will not know the difference in ap-
pearance between one American and another; and you
will not know the difference between different Chinamen.
32. It can be shown that it is the mind which makes
things knowable. It is only things which have certain
peculiarities that bring themselves within the range of
the known and knowable. That which has no qualities
is unknowable. For instance, there is some external
world, X, unknown and unknowable. When I look at
it, it is X plus mind. When I want to know the world,
my mind contributes three-quarters of it. The internal
world is Y plus mind, and the external world X plus
mind. All differentiation in either the external or in-
ternal world is created by the mind, and that which ex-
ists is unknown and unknowable. It is beyond the range
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 41
of knowledge, and that which is beyond the range of
knowledge can have no differentiation. Therefore this
X outside is the same as the Y inside, and therefore the
real is one.
33. The personal God is the same Absolute looked at
through the haze of Maya. When we approach Him with
the five senses, we can only see Him as the personal
God. The Idea is that the Self cannot be objectified.
How can the knower know himself? But it can cast a
shadow, as it were, if that can be called objectification.
So the highest form of that shadow, that attempt at
objectifying itself, is the personal God. The Self is the
eternal subject, and we are struggling all the time to
objectify that Self. And out of that struggle has come
this phenomenal universe and what we call matter, and
so on. But these are very weak attempts, and the high-
est objectification of the Self possible to us is the personal
God. This objectification is an attempt to reveal our
own nature. According to the Sankhya, nature is show-
ing all these experiences to the soul, and when it has got
real experience it will know its own nature. According
to the Adwaita Vedantist, the soul is struggling to re-
veal itself. After long struggle, it finds that the subject
must always remain the subject; and then begins non-
attachment, and it becomes free.
When a man has reached that perfect state, he is of the
same nature as the personal God. "I and My Father are
One." He knows that he is one with Brahman, the
Absolute, and projects himself as the personal God does.
He plays, — ^as even the mightiest of kings may sometimes
play with dolls.
34. Some imaginations help to break the bondage of
the rest. The whole universe is imagination, but one set
of imagination will cure another set. Those* that tell us
that there is sin and sorrow and death in the world are ter-
rible. But the other set, — thou art holy, there is God,
42 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
there is no pain, — these are good, and help to break the
bondage of the others. The highest imagination that can
break all the links of the chain is that of the personal
35. Now and then we know a moment of supreme bliss^
when we ask nothing, give nothing, know nothing but
bliss. Then it passes, and we again see the panorama of
the universe moving before us; and we know that it is
but a mosaic work set upon God, who is the background
of all things.
The Vedanta teaches that Nirvana can be attained here
and now, that we do not have to wait for death to reach
it. Nirvana is the realization of the Self; and after hav-
ing once known that, if only for an instant, never again
can one be deluded by the mirage of personality. Hav-
ing eyes, we must see the apparent, but all the time we
know what it is; we have found out its true nature. It
is the screen that hides the Self, which is unchanging.
The screen opens, and we find the Self behind it. All
change is in the screen. In the saint the screen is thin,
and the reality can almost shine through. In the sinner
the screen is thick, and we are apt to lose sight of the
truth that the Atman is there, as well as behind the saint's
screen. When the screen is wholly removed, we find it
really never existed, — that we were the Atman and noth-
ing else, even the screen is forgotten.
36. The two phases of this distinction in life are, —
first, that the man who knows the real Self, will not be af-
fected by anything; secondly, that that man alone can do
good to the world. That man alone will have seen the
real motive of doing good to others, because there is
only one. It cannot be called the egoistic, because that
would be differentiation. It is the only self-less-ness. It
is the perception of the universal, not of the individual.
Every case of love and sympathy is an assertion of this
universal. "Not I, but thou." Help another because I
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 43
am in him and he in me, is the philosophical way of put-
ting it. The real Vedantist alone will give up his life
for a fellow man without any compunction, because he
knows he will not die. As long as there is one insect
left in the world, he is living; as long as one mouth eats,
he eats. So he goes on doing good to others, and is
never hindered by the modern ideas of caring for the
body. When a man reaches this point of abnegation,
he goes beyond the moral struggle, beyond everything.
He sees in the most learned priest, in the cow, in the
dog, in the most miserable places, neither the learned
man, nor the cow, nor the dog, nor the miserable place,
but the same divinity manifesting itself in them all. He
alone is the happy man; and the man who has conquered
that sameness even in this life, has conquered all the
heavens. God is pure; therefore such a man is said to
be living in God. Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I
am." That means that these are already free spirits; and
Jesus of Nazareth took human form, not by the compul-
sion of his past actions, but just to do good to mankind.
It is not that when a man becomes free, he will stop and
become a dead lump; but he will be more active than
any other being, because every other being acts only
under compulsion, he alone through freedom.
37. Individuality. If we are inseparable from God, /
have we no individuality? Oh, yes: that is God. Our in-/
dividuality is God. This is not individuality you have/
now; you are coming towards that. Individuality means
what cannot be divided. How can you call this individu-
ality? One hour you are thinking one way, and the next
hour another way, and two hours after another way. In-
dividuality is that which changes not, beyond all things
changeless. It would be tremendously dangerous for
this state to remain in eternity, because then the thief
would always remain a thief, and the blackguard a black-
guard. If a baby dies, he would have to remain a baby.
44 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
The real individuality is that which never changes^nd
WlTt'neveTcliange; anct^at is the God wiSEmusl ""^ '
rod does not reason. Why should you reason if
you know? It is a sign of weakness, that we have to go
on, crawling like worms, to get a few facts, and then the
whole thing tumbles down again. The spirit is reflected
in mind and in everything. It is the light of the spirit
that makes the mind sentient. Everything is an expres-
sion of the spirit; the minds are so many mirrors. What
you call love and fear, hatred, virtue, and vice, are all re-
flections of the spirit. When the reflector is base, the
reflection is bad.
39. We have been low animals once. We think they
are something different from us. I hear Western people
say: "The world was created for me." If tigers could
write books, they would say man was created for them,
and that man is a most sinful animal, because he does
not allow him (the tiger) to catch him easily. The worm
that crawls under your feet to-day is a God to be.
40. I disagree with the idea that freedom is obedience
to the laws of nature. I do not understand what it means.
According to the history of human progress, it is dis-
obedience to nature that has constituted that progress.
It may be said that the conquest of lower laws was through
the higher. But even there, the conquering min-d was
only trying to be free; and as soon as it found that the
struggle was also through law, it wanted to conquer
that also. So the ideal was freedom in every case. The
trees never disobey law. I never saw a cow steal. An
oyster never told a lie. Yet they are not greater than
man. This life is a tremendous assertion of freedom;
and this obedience to law, carried far enough, would make
us simply matter,— either in society, or in politics, or re-
ligion. Too many laws are a sure sign of death.
Wherever in any society there are too many laws, it is
a sure sign that that society will soon die. If you study
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 45
the characteristics of India, you will find that no nation
possesses so many laws as the Hindus, and the national
death is the result. But the Hindus had one peculiar
idea, — they never made any doctrines or dogmas in reli-
gion; and the latter has had the greatest growth. Eter-
nal law cannot be freedom, because to say the eternal is
inside law is to limit it.
41. There is no purpose in view with God, because if
there were some purpose, he would be nothing better than
a tree. Why should He need any purpose? If He had
any. He would be bound by it. There would be something
besides Him which was greater. For instance, the carpet
weaver makes a piece of carpet. The idea was outside
of him, something greater. Now where is the idea to
which God would adjust Himself? Just as the greatest
emperors sometimes play with dolls, so He is playing
with this nature; and what we call law is this. We call
it law because we can only see little bits which run
smoothly. All our ideas of law are within the little bit.
It is nonsense to say that law is infinite, that through-
out all time stones will fall. If all reason be based
upon experience, who was there to see if stones fell five
millions of years ago? So law is not constitutional in
man. It is a scientific assertion as to man that where we
begin there we end. As a matter of fact, we get gradu-
ally outside of law, until we get out altogether, but with
the added experience of a whole life. In God and free-
dom we began and freedom and God will be the ultimate.
These laws are in the middle state through which we have
to pass. Our Vedanta is the assertion of freedom always.
The very idea of law will frighten the Vedantist; and
eternal law is a very dreadful thing for him, because
there would be no escape. If there is to be an eternal
law binding him all the time, where is the difference
between him and a bit of grass? We do not believe in
that abstract idea of law.
46 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
42. We say that it is freedom that we are to seek, and
that that freedom is God. It is the same happiness as
in everything else; but when man seeks it in something
which is finite, he gets only a spark of it. The thief when
he steals gets the same happiness as the man who finds
it in God; but the thief gets only a little spark, with a
mass of misery. The real happiness is God. Love is God,
freedom is God; and everything that is bondage is not
43. The real existence is without manifestation. We
cannot conceive it, because we should have to conceive
through the mind, which is itself a manifestation. Its
glory is that it is inconceivable. We must remember
that in life the lowest and highest vibrations of light
we do not see, but they are the opposite poles of ex-
istence of light. There are certain things which we do
not know, but which we can know. It is through our
ignorance that we do not know them. There are certain
things which we can never know, because they are much
higher than the highest vibrations of knowledge. But
we are the Eternal all the time, although we cannot know
it. Knowledge will be impossible there. The very fact
of the limitations of the conception is the basis for its
existence. For instance, there is nothing so certain in
me as myself; and yet I can only conceive of it as a
body and mind, as happy or unhappy, as a man or a
woman. At the same time, I try to conceive of it as it
really is, and find that there is no other way but by
dragging it down; yet I am sure of that reality. "No
one, O beloved, loves the husband for the husband's sake,
but because the Self is there. It is in and through the
Self that she loves the husband. No one, O beloved,
loves the wife for the wife's sake, but in and through
the Self." And that reality is the only thing we know,
because in and through it we know everything else; and
yet we cannot conceive of it. How can we know the
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 47
knower? If we knew it, it would not be the knower,
but the known; it would be objectified.
44. We need reason to drive out all the old supersti-
tions; and what remains is Vedantism. There is a beauti-
ful poem in which the sage says to himself: "Why weep-
•est thou, my friend? There is no fear of death for you.
Why weepest thou? There is no misery for thee, for thou
art like the infinite blue sky, unchangeable in thy nature.
Clouds of all colors come before it, play for a moment,
and pass away; it is the same sky. Thou hast only to
<lrive away the clouds." We have to open the gates and
clear the way. The water will rush in and fill in by its
•own nature, because it is there already.
45. Man is a good deal conscious, partly unconscious,
and there is a possibility of getting beyond consciousness.
It is only when we become men that we can go beyond
all reason. The words higher or lower can be used only
in the phenomenal world. To say them of the noumenal
world is simply contradictory, because there is no dif-
ferentiation there. Man-manifestation is the highest in the
phenomenal world. The Vedantist says he is higher than
the Devas. The gods will all have to die and will be-
come men again, and in the man-body alone they will be-
46. Man has freedom already, but he will have to dis-
cover it. He has it, but every moment forgets it. That
discovering, consciously or unconsciously, is the whole
life of every one. But the diflFerence between the sage and
the ignorant man is, that one does it consciously, and the
other unconsciously. Every one is struggling for freedom,
— from the atom to the stars. The ignorant man is satis-
fied if he can get freedom within a certain limit, — if he can
get rid of the bondage of hunger, or of being thirsty. But
the sage feels that there is a stronger bondage which has
to be thrown off. He would not consider the freedom of
the Red Indian as freedom at all.
48 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
47. According to our philosophers, freedom is the goal.
Knowledge cannot be the goal, because knowledge is a
compound. It is a compound of power and freedom,
and it is freedom alone that is desirable. That is what
men struggle after. Simply the possession of power would
not be knowledge. For instance, a scientist can send an
electric shock to a distance of a mile; but nature can send
it an unlimited distance. Why do we not build statues
to nature then? It is not law that we want, but ability
to break law. We want to be outlaws. If you are bound
by laws, you will be a lump of clay. Whether you are
beyond law or not is not the question; but the thought
that we are beyond law, — upon that is based the whole
history of humanity. For instance, a man lives in a for-
est, and never has had any education or knowledge. He
sees a stone falling down, — a natural phenomenon hap-
pening, — and he thinks it is freedom. He thinks it has
a soul, and the central idea in that is freedom. But as
soon as he knows that it must fall, he calls it nature, —
dead, mechanical action. I may or may not go into the
street. In that is my glory as a man. If I am sure that
I must go there, I give myself up and become a ma-
chine. Nature with its infinite power is only a machine;
freedom alone constitutes sentij^ent life. The Vedanta
says that the idea of the man in the forest is the right
one; his glimpse is right, but the explanation is wrong.
He holds to this nature as freedom, and not as governed
by law. Only after all this human experience we will
come back to think the same, but in a more philosophical
sense. For instance, I want to go out into the street.
I get the impulse of my will, and then I stop; and the time
that intervenes between the will and going into the street,
I am working uniformly. Uniformity of action is what
we call law. This uniformity of my actions, I find, is
broken into very short periods, and so I do not call my
actions under law. I work through freedom. I walk for
five minutes; but before those five minutes of walking,
THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY. 49
which are uniform, there was the action of the will, which
gave the impulse to walk. Therefore man says he is free,
because all his actions can be cut up into small periods;
and although there is sameness in the small periods, be-
yond the period there is not the same sameness. In this
perception of non-uniformity is the idea of freedom. In
nature we see only very large periods of uniformity;
but the beginning and end must be free impulses. The
impulse of freedom was given just at the beginning, and
that has rolled on; but this, compared with our periods,
is so much longer. We find by analysis on philosophic
grounds, that we are not free. But there will remain
this factor, this consciousness that I am free. What we
have to explain is, how that comes. We will find that
we have these two impulses in us. Our reason tells us
that all our actions are caused, and at the same time, with
every impulse we are asserting our freedom. The solu-
tion of the Vedanta is that there is freedom inside, —
that the soul is really free, — but that that soul's actions
are percolating through body and mind, which are not
48. As soon as we react, we become slaves. A man
blames me, and I immediately react in the form of anger.
A little vibration which he created made me a slave. So
we have to demonstrate our freedom. "They alone are
the sages who see in the highest, most learned man, or
the lowest animal, or the worst and most wicked of
mankind, neither a man nor a sage nor an animal, but the
same God in all of them. Even in this life they have
conquered heaven, and have taken a firm stand upon this
equality. God is pure, the same to all. Therefore such
a sage would be a living God." This is the goal towards
which we are going; and every form of worship, every
action of mankind, is a method of attaining to it. The
man who wants money is striving for freedom, — to get
rid of the bondage of poverty. Every action of man is
50 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA.
worship, because the idea is to attain to freedom, and
all action, directly or indirectly, tends to that. Only,
those actions that deter are to be avoided. The whole
universe is worshipping consciously or unconsciously, only
it does not know that while even it is cursing it is in
another form of worshipping the same God it is cursing,
because those who are cursing are also struggling for free-
dom. They never think that in reacting from a thing
they are making themselves slaves to it. It is hard to
kick against the pricks.
49. If we could get rid of the belief in our limitations,
it would be possible for us to do everything just now. It
is only a question of time. If that is so, add power, and
so diminish time. Remember the case of the profes-
sor who learned the secret of the development of marble,
and who made marble in twelve years, while it took na-
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